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Spending Review to focus on Covid support

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The government has scrapped the multi-year spending review and is holding a one-year review at the end of November, focusing on the response to Covid-19.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the decision was taken to focus on supporting jobs, setting departmental resources and capital budgets for 2021-22, and the devolved administrations’ block grants for the same period.

The government statement said multi-year NHS and schools’ resource settlements will be fully funded, as will priority infrastructure projects.

The government previously stated that it would keep plans for the Spending Review under review given the uncertainty of Covid-19.

The Spending Review will focus on three areas:

  • Providing departments with the certainty they need to tackle Covid-19 and deliver the government’s Plan for Jobs to support employment.
  • Giving vital public services enhanced support to continue to fight against the virus alongside delivering first class frontline services.
  • Investing in infrastructure to deliver the government’s plans to unite and level up the country, drive economic recovery and “Build Back Better”.

Rishi Sunak, chancellor of the exchequer, said: “In the current environment it’s essential that we provide certainty. So we’ll be doing that for departments and all of the nations of the United Kingdom by setting budgets for next year, with a total focus on tackling Covid and delivering our Plan for Jobs.

“Long term investment in our country’s future is the right thing to do, especially in areas which are the cornerstone of our society like the NHS, schools and infrastructure. We’ll make sure these areas crucial to our economic recovery have their budgets set for further years so they can plan and help us Build Back Better.”

The date for the review will be confirmed shortly but it will be in the last weeks of November.

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) is not happy with the one-year Spending Review, or its timing.

James Jamieson, LGA chairman, said: “It is hugely disappointing that councils will only get a one-year funding settlement for the third year in a row. This makes it incredibly difficult for them to plan how to provide local services our communities rely on and which have proved so vital during the pandemic, including public health, adult social care, children’s services, homelessness support, and help for those in financial hardship.

“We urge the government to publish this Spending Review as soon as possible as the end of November is incredibly late for councils to find out how much money they will have to provide services next year. Councils will face a £4bn funding gap next year just to keep services running at today’s levels and need urgent certainty about how to set budgets and to plan any measures they may be forced to take to cut spending.

“Before the Spending Review is announced, the government must confirm that the resources councils have this year will not reduce and there will be no business rates reset next year.”